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Blighty Beat

After welcoming a number of new imprints into the fold over the last few years, Jason Iley’s Sony Music U.K. has been enjoying the fruits of that investment with a wide-ranging array of artists. Tom Walker reached a significant milestone with a #1 debut in March, and Fredo is a frontrunner in the developing British rap scene, as is Aitch, who is hitting Top 5 after just over a year in development.


Tom Walker has spent the last five years gradually building up a head of steam, leading up to the release of his debut album, What a Time to Be Alive, which hit the top of the U.K. charts in March. In late 2015, he signed with Relentless Records, where the U.K. team, led by Shabs Jobanputra, have been working closely with the Sony international department and manager Simon King to deliver a steady flow of music while undertaking a heavy promotion and touring schedule worldwide. As King notes: “We’ve done everything; we’ve flown around the world to as many countries as we possibly can, taken every opportunity we possibly can and worked with every media outlet to further the awareness of who Tom is and his music. We’ve been strategic, but we haven’t been snobby about it.”

But the key ingredient, according to Relentless GM Ben Coates, is Tom’s talent. He explains: “He has an amazing voice, the ability to write songs that connect with a lot of people on a deep level, and he’s a genuinely nice person who is very, very likeable.” Sony U.K. EVP of International Marketing Mark Collen adds: “Tom has matured into a ferociously hard-working artist whose commitment and persistence are being rewarded with acclaim and success in a continually unfolding international market.”

Walker’s 2017 single “Leave a Light On” was a hit across Europe that year, starting with radio success in Italy, then spreading to Switzerland and Germany and into Benelux and France, where the record spent over eight weeks at #1 on the French airplay chart in 2018. That success helped fuel the U.K. plot, as BBC Radio 1 came on board, while some key early TV moments introduced Walker to an audience back home. That laid the groundwork for heavy activity around the arrival of his album in 2019, which was preceded by a Best Breakthrough Act win at the BRITs in February. In April, a re-released version of “Just You and I” became Walker’s highest-charting track to date in the U.K., peaking at #3.

This year ends with a sold-out tour of U.K. and Europe, including Walker’s biggest headlining London date yet at the 5k-capacity Brixton Academy. Plans are being confirmed for a return to the U.S., Canada and Mexico in late winter and a return to Japan, Australia and New Zealand in the spring. A repackage of the album was released earlier in November, and new single “Better Half of Me” arrived before that, which Collen says brought “all our international markets into alignment around a single track, which is a position we’ve not been in for a while.” Next year will be about taking some time out to get back into the studio, and summer 2020 is filled with festival dates.


Fredo has emerged as a key act in the rising British rap scene over the last year after signing to Sony U.K. label Since ’93, who have amplified his artist proposition with a string of collaborations, videos, interviews and fan activations. After signing in January 2018, Fredo reached #5 with mixtape Tables Turn, which was the fourth-biggest-selling debut U.K. release last year. That was followed by summer smash “Ay Caramaba” with Young T & Bugsey, which spent nine weeks in the Official Singles Top 40. Later in the year, Fredo hit #1 with Dave collaboration “Funky Friday,” which made history as the first-ever U.K. rap track to hit the top spot. His debut studio album, Third Avenue, peaked at #5 in February, and he’s recently had a Top 10 single as a featured artist on “So High” by Mist.

Discussing what made Sony want to get involved, Since ’93 MD Glyn Aikins tells us: “Fredo’s uncompromising style and fanatically engaged fanbase were the early indicators of the journey he was about to undertake. He was clearly going to be one of the leaders of the new movement of British rap music.” Thanks to groundwork already done by Fredo and his managers Dion Hamilton and Mouth, Aikins adds, “There was no real development period for Fredo; he came fully defined as an artist. The process for us was to place a magnifying glass over everything, get his records heard by as many people as possible and help grow the already-engaged audience.”

Fredo took on a 12-date sold-out U.K. tour in March, including two dates at London’s 2.3k-capacity O2 Forum Kentish Town before setting off around Europe. The summer was filled with festival dates, including Reading and Leeds, Wireless and BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, and Stormzy brought him onstage alongside Dave during his huge Glastonbury headline show. Next up, expect more collaborations, a big single by the end of the year, an album currently in the works for 2020 and a bigger U.K. and European tour. As Aikins sees it, “Fredo’s path is undoubtedly one to watch.”


Manchester rapper Aitch has fast become a priority for Sony after hitting #2 on the U.K. Official Singles Chart in September with “Taste (Make It Shake)” and #3 on Albums with his second EP, AITCH20, which has since sold more than 30k. It all began in 2018, when his freestyle “Straight Rhymez” became a viral hit through YouTube and his MC skills were noticed by Since ’93, who signed him in June. Across the last year, he’s been honing his writing craft and recording with a variety of people, including friend and producer WhyJay. Thanks to showcasing his personality through social media, his follower count has hit over 1m on Instagram.

This year began with being selected as One to Watch at BBC 1Xtra, and Aitch went on to collaborate and feature on what turned out to be some of the hottest and most exciting records of the second quarter of 2019. Those included the “Keisha & Becky” remix with Russ & Tion Wayne, which charted at #7 in the U.K.; “Strike a Pose” with Young T & Bugsey, which stayed in the Top 30 for 18 weeks; and the remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Take Me Back to London” alongside Stormzy and Jaykae.

After releasing his EP in September, “Buss Down” f/Ziezie became his second Top 10 hit.  Aitch then embarked on an 18-date headline U.K. tour, which sold out in seven minutes and includes a show at London’s 2.3k-capacity O2 Forum Kentish Town. Aikins has high hopes, noting: “Aitch is a driven, ambitious and smart artist. I have no doubt that he will be platinum-selling and arena-touring in the not-too-distant future.”